Disclaimer: This was a really hard post for me to write, partly because it's so filled with emotion, partly because it makes me extremely vulnerable. So, I'm sorry if it's all over the place.
Last night I felt compelled to write something about anxiety and depression, one part because of all the statuses I saw people suddenly posting about it, and another part because people are so heavily misinformed (yes, to this day) about how detrimental anxiety can be. But this morning, as I was perusing through the always enlightening Facebook newsfeed, two people posted an article and it sent me entirely over the edge. One person posted about how they wanted to learn everything Catholic about depression and how they couldn’t believe it didn’t have to coincide with living in sin and the other article was “Saints that Suffered From Depression” and one said “I want to know the Catholic stance on depression." K. One. The Catholic stance on depression? You mean the universal stance on a mental illness? Oh my God, a person can be depressed without having to live a horrible sinful life!? Sometimes it’s not only caused by self-loathing? And what, now that Robin Williams died (RIP you lovely, incredibly human) and you liked his movies, you’re going to take the time to actually read up about what causes depression and anxiety, and now you’ve realized that since Saints suffered from it, it’s OK to pay attention to it?
We are in some serious trouble, people. And I’m not going to sit here and blame the ignorance of some religious folk, because my family is Catholic and we are probably the biggest advocates of educating ourselves and others on mental illness. But my God, are people seriously this ignorant? I didn’t want to believe it but, yes, they are.
I’m not using this post as a “oh Robin Williams was depressed and died from suicide, so let me share MY experience because I totally understand what was going on in his head.” No. Not at all. But maybe, MAYBE from my personal experience I can shed some light on humans who for some illogical reason thought that anxiety and depression only existed in people who led immoral lives so they wouldn’t give their time to them.
I was depressed at 15 through about 23 along with probably 76% of every human alive. Everyone has some form of anxiety & OCD because guess what, LIFE HAPPENS. I can’t speak for them but I can speak for myself when I say I don’t even know what caused mine. I've been anxious since I was 7. And if you're not familiar, anxiety sucks. You can't help it sometimes. When I was in first grade I used to throw up when my mom would leave the house at night because I was always scared she'd get in an accident. I used to get sick to my stomach when certain songs came on the radio because they...sounded sad and made me anxious. I saw a therapist at 8 and he told my mom I was lactose intolerant. I wasn't, I had anxiety. I used to get scared of getting the stomach flu because I hated when my stomach hurt that I would actually get so nervous I made myself sick. Then growing up, like sure, I had issues with my mom, yeah, I got molested my second semester of college. But now that I’m realizing my time spent in my therapists office, sure, a lot of things were probably factors in my depression, and sure, when I was 21 and tried to overdose on oxy something DID put me over the edge (failed miserably, obviously, I’m still here) but not all depression stems from ONE thing. It’s an illness, and I had it since I was SEVEN. I remember sitting on my bed when I was 21 holding a bottle of pills and the song I was listening to all of a sudden sounded like it was telling me to take the pills. It wasn’t, I was listening to a Flufftronix remix, but in my warped mind that’s what it sounded like to me. And right after I took them I got scared and called my brother. (Blah blah blah fell asleep, woke up in an ambulance, went to the hospital, had to get some psych treatment but I was fine, just in case you were wondering). But when I was in the psych ward of the hospital, I was put in a room without a handle on the inside of the door so we couldn’t leave. It was a giant, metal, empty room. And I was stuck in there with other people. Other CRAZY people. Other crazy people who had been arrested and were on some serious drugs. One woman was tripping on something and kept singing me Beatles songs. It was terrifying. So I knocked on the window and asked the guard (yes, guard) if I could come sit with him because I was scared of sitting inside with the other people who had been taken off the streets. When he let me, and the social worker finally came to check on me to see if I was stable enough, I poured out sorry after sorry telling her I just took the pills because I wanted to sleep for a while.
Gripping onto her clipboard pointing at me with her pen “but I see the wounds on your wrist haven’t healed”
“I know but that’s behind me, I just did it as a coping mechanism I won’t do it again!”
“OK but your mom doesn’t think you’re ready”
“But I am I PROMISE”
and she stood there, standing far away from me, panicked, like she was scared of me, and finally decided to release me.
We have the wrong people working in our psych system. We need people who are compassionate. Who understand. People who don’t treat all patients the same way and cluster them into one horribly cold room.
After that, two of my best friends stopped talking to me. Completely. And were scared, and didn’t want to have to deal with someone like that, or be seen with someone who actually needed a friend more than anything in the world. See, that was MY way of seeking help. I’m not sure if I actually wanted to die, or just sleep for a really long time because I didn’t want to feel sad anymore, but it was an outcry. And some people are just born with really dark thoughts. I think there are definitely certain things we can do to try to overcome it, but to try to pin it on one thing is really awful. YES, of course PTSD exists! but, humans have emotions, it’s what makes us….human. We are happy and sad and angry and everything in between, and sometimes some of us have a really hard time staying positive. So all of these articles I’m reading about what it was that tipped Robin over, or why he was depressed, or, what’s the Catholics view on depression — it’s all bullshit. That’s like asking, so WHY did he get the flu, what was it, and what’s the Catholic take on the flu? What are you talking about. Depression and anxiety is not myth. It’s not some made up disease that only resides in people who aren’t religious. Why are people so scared of it!?
I remember being in college and talking to counselors about my depression and some of them saying “well you need God, and to stop living in a way that’s compromising to your faith.” Which, on one end, is totally true - like we should be living in the healthiest way possible, and live in a way in which we believe actually seeks the ultimate happiness, but, you can’t just brush it off like that. People need help. Some people just need compassion and love and some people genuinely have a chemical imbalance in their brain that requires outward deposits of serotonin. And some people are genuinely just sad. We seek kindness, we seek love, we seek happiness. There is no “catholic view” on depression. There’s a universal view. And we need to start paying more attention to mental illness, RIGHT now.